Review: Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (young-adult, science fiction, post-apocalyptic)
Synopsis: It’s almost the end of Miranda’s sophomore year in high school, and her journal reflects the busy life of a typical teenager. When Miranda first begins hearing the reports of a meteor on a collision course with the moon, it hardly seems worth a mention in her diary. But after the meteor hits, pushing the moon off its axis and causing worldwide earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes, all the things Miranda used to take for granted begin to disappear. Read more…
I warn you, this is going to make me sound a little odd, if not insane: I read this book in bed, on the way to work, whenever I had free time. I’d be walking along the road thinking about how it’s probably good that someone shared their lunch with me today because we need to save food. And it’s really grey today. Damn those volcanic ash clouds blocking the sun. I imagined all the food we’d stock up on. What would be like to bring back cars full of tinned and jarred food? I need to remember to stock up on chocolate.
And then I’d snap out of it (“Wait. What?”). I felt so completely absorbed in this novel that I actually felt like it was happening to me. It is told in diary form, which reminded me of first-hand accounts that they show on the news when there’s some sort of catastrophe, like with the recent tsunami disaster in Japan. These accounts make you understand what’s happening to different groups of people without being there. That’s what was happening with me.
The story is very simply told (which I found realistic as 16-year-olds’ diaries often aren’t literary masterpieces), and it won’t convert you if you dislike young-adult literature, but I think this is why I felt more engaged with it. It is very different from adult post-apocalyptic fiction, such as The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It is less brutal and less harrowing, but that’s probably why I could relate to it more. I was so disengaged with the events happening in The Road, which meant that it had less of an impact on me, whereas Life As We Knew is about a family struggling to cope after a meteor crashes into the moon, causing the orbit to be altered. Civilisation isn’t wiped out completely but it forces people to adapt very quickly to a utterly different way of daily living. The family is only able to find out what’s happening in the rest of the world (many, many deaths, famine, volcanic eruptions, flooding) through rare radio broadcasts. Mostly, it’s just Miranda’s thoughts and her account of life with her mother and her two brothers, confined to their home, wondering if they’re going to live or die.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can see why it has received so much praise. I’m unsure as to whether I’ll read the next two books, The Dead and the Gone and This World We Live In, as the reviews are pretty bad. But we’ll see. I’m now really excited about the prospect of reading more YA post-apocalyptic novels such as America Pacifica and Ashes, Ashes. Hooray! Another genre to love.
My Rating: ★★★★★
Goodreads Average Rating: ★★★★
36/50 books read for 50 Book Challenge #3